STATE COLLEGE – Penn State running back Journey Brown has emerged from a once-crowded backfield as the entrenched starter.
Playing just six days after the death of his cousin, Paige Odon Fabela, Brown recorded the first three-touchdown game of his Penn State career. The redshirt sophomore scored on runs of 2, 18 and 1 yard and finished with 103 yards rushing.
“I just play my game,” Brown said on Saturday. “I want to say it motivates me to do better because I always want to do my best regardless of the circumstances. It just gives me another ‘Why?’ 'Why do I love this game? Why do I want to do what I want to do? Why do I get up every morning?' ”
Brown now has four 100-yard games this season. He also rushed for 109 yards against Pittsburgh, 124 yards at Minnesota and 100 yards versus Indiana. Brown upped his season’s rushing total to 688 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
“In my 24 years, I don’t think I’ve been around a kid who has overcome more adversity in his life than him,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He had some more this past week. He’s a special, special kid. Huge smile on his face. Very appreciative of Penn State. He’s been phenomenal, and I could not be more proud of him.”
Freiermuth to return
Penn State sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth recorded one catch against Rutgers to extend his reception streak to 24 games, but his postgame announcement was his biggest move of the day.
Via a post on Twitter shortly after the end of the Penn State-Rutgers contest, Freiermuth announced his decision to return to Penn State next season. Though a sophomore, Freiermuth had a five-year high school career, which made him eligible to declare for the draft after this season.
“The brotherhood and family atmosphere is something that I’m not ready to leave,” part of the Tweet read. “The culture Coach Franklin and the staff have created here is something very special and I love being part of it.”
Freiermuth’s announcement should resonate with Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, as it ensures a reliable receiving threat next season. It also gives Penn State some assurance after wide receiver Justin Shorter entered the NCAA’s transfer portal last week.
Freiermuth has caught 41 passes for 461 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and he’s compiled a career 836 yards and 15 touchdowns in two years at Penn State.
Three Penn State players logged their first career starts on Saturday: quarterback Will Levis, cornerback Keaton Ellis and defensive end Jayson Oweh.
Levis, playing in relief of injured starter Sean Clifford, was 8 of 14 passing for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also tallied a game-high 108 yards rushing on 17 carries. Levis threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve been in enough games now where I kind of know what’s going on, and I know how to operate,” Levis said. “Being it was my first start, it was a little different after the first couple plays, but after that, I was good.”
Oweh recorded three tackles, while Ellis finished with two.